Qatar FM says 2022 World Cup the 'most inclusive' to date
Qatar’s Foreign Minister Mohammad bin Abdulrahman al-Thani has called this year's World Cup tournament the "most inclusive" to date.
The minister expressed his pride in his country for allowing people from a range of backgrounds to attend the games in an interview with The Washington Post’s Today’s World View.
"Most of the visitors are having a very positive experience... this is something that we are proud of, we want to show to the world that Arab countries… are not only about wars and conflicts. It’s also about celebration," he told the US outlet.
However, the Gulf state has come under criticism for allegations of homophobia and workers' rights abuses in the creation of the World Cup stadiums. Qatar said it has improved workers' rights since it was allocated the World Cup and dismissed inflated numbers of deaths stated in some reports.
Al-Thani described the criticism as "unprecedented", "disappointing" and part of a persistent attack, without acknowledging Qatar's perspective.
"We never claimed that the conditions of the migrant labourers are perfect. Once these concerns were highlighted, Qatar has… taken them seriously… it's been pictured in a way that Qatar is just ignoring the fact that there is an issue, which is not the case," al-Thani said.
The minister also stated that during the past eight years, the country has employed independent lawyers to examine its labour situation and to identify gaps in the legislation or system, which they also "took… very seriously".
"All the reforms throughout the last 12 years that Qatar took on have been implemented," he added as he slammed a perceived double standard that in Europe companies responsible for migrant issues would be blamed, and "never the government".
People with rainbow flags have been stopped inside stadiums, which according to al-Thani is down to rulings of FIFA and not Qatar as "whatever is happening on the pitch... is FIFA rules".
"We’ve been saying repeatedly, everybody is welcome. Just respect the laws… public display of affection is not allowed in Qatar, and this is applied to everyone… it’s not something that’s pointed or directed toward one orientation or another," al-Thani said.
The World Cup began on November 20 in Qatar and is due to end on 18 December.
The tournament is the first of its kind to be held in the Middle East and the Arab world.